Published by Gallery Books on December 4, 2018
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize.
Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.
She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.
Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.
Entertaining and fun. The Accidental Beauty Queen is all about love; not just old-fashioned romance but sisterly love and more importantly, that you first need to love yourself.
Charlotte Gorman considered herself the brains of the family and above the shallow beauty obsession of her beauty pageant driven twin, Ginny. But when Ginny suffers an allergic reaction the night before the start of the Miss American Treasure pageant, she convinces Charlotte to step in for her. This is Ginny’s last chance to win the same pageant that their mother won in 1975. But when the woman looking back in the mirror after her pageant makeover is that of her sister, Ginny, Charlotte learns that her supposed self-confidence is a fraud and that her whole life has been spent denying her jealously over her prettier twin.
Charlotte and Ginny were your usual identical twins, but after their mother died of cancer, their father just didn’t have it in him to match their looks each day, and the twins started developing their own personalities. Ginny started to garner all the attention with her looks and her desire to follow their mother’s legacy and compete in beauty pageants, and Charlotte feels that no one really sees her when Ginny is around. Charlotte turned towards her beloved books for solace and friendship. Charlotte became a school librarian, sharing her love of books with the children, while her sister continued to chase the same crown that their mother won, Miss American Treasure.
Charlotte arrives in Florida to support her sister’s big chance and also to check out the new Harry Potter theme-park. Ginny’s platform is pet adoption, and adopting French Bulldog, Buttercup, is part of that platform. Yet it is Charlotte who keeps having to walk her. It also gives Charlotte an opportunity to meet and flirt with a handsome stranger who is walking his own dog named Hamlet. They share several flirty moments that only a true book-lover would understand and appreciate.
Even though Charlotte and Ginny shared a lovely dinner before the preliminaries begin, it was only Ginny that suffered an allergic reaction to something they ate. Charlotte doesn’t want anything to do with the pageant but after some soul searching, she can’t deny her sister her chance at her dream. Ginny gives Charlotte a full pageant-level makeover and when Charlotte sees her sister looking back at her reflection, it pokes hard at a devastating wound that Charlotte fights to ignore, the fact that her fiance was going to marry her to get close to her prettier sister, hoping to some day trade-up.
In participating in the pageant and actually meeting the other contestants, Charlotte realizes that she has misjudged the contestants are superficial, back-biters. Most of the other women are supportive of one another and have goals beyond winning crowns. It is Charlotte who does the most soul searching realizing that she has some growing up to do.
While Charlotte adjusts her opinion of the pageant participants and her sister as well, she also comes to the depressing realization that this time she has created the same issue in her romance with Gray Beckham as she had with her fiance, Adam. Not only has she created a conflict since Gray is one of the pageant’s judges, but in flirting with Gray and then posing as her sister, any feelings Gray has will be for her pretty, pageant participant Ginny persona rather than for Charlotte herself.
The longer Charlotte competes on her sister’s behalf, the more the lines blurs between competing for Ginny and competing for Charlotte herself and when Ginny finally recovers enough to step back into the contest, Charlotte isn’t certain she is ready to step back out of the limelight.
I enjoyed this story. It was a quick, light read with some fun scenes. Book lovers will enjoy all the Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter and other favorite novel references. I would have liked a few more pages developing and solidifying the romance between Gray and Charlotte. They had some great book-lover moments and you could feel their attraction, but it was a bit of a jump from flirty attraction to love of my life since their romance was secondary to the story of the twins bonding over the pageant and healing Charlotte’s wound created by her fiance’s desire for her sister.
This is definitely worth picking up for a little fun.
There were many cute book-related interactions between Charlotte and Gray as well as a great talent competition scene and it was hard to decide what to choose, but I also liked this scene where Charlotte gets to the dreaded swimsuit part of the competition.
Watching the pageant in person is a completely different experience from sitting in your living room and watching it on television. It feels almost intimate.
It’s immediately obvious which contestants are nervous and which ones feel at ease. Like Ginny said, the girls who are flustered hurry down the runway, barely pausing to pose Some of them seem to focus on the judges’s foreheads rather than looking them square in the eye. Their arms are stiff. Some of them scrunch their shoulders. I swear, Miss Connecticut has the body of a Victoria’s Secret model, but she walks across the stage with actual jazz hands.
Ginny was right. This spectacle isn’t really about bodies. Not altogether, anyway. It’s about body confidence. I never would have believed it if I didn’t have what basically amounts to a front-row seat.
This epiphany should really make me feel better. Unfortunately, my walk isn’t any better than my bikini body. Truth be told, it’s probably worse. So now I’m not only worried about the slight jiggle in my belly and getting down the runway and back without falling on my face, but I’m also concerned about my shoulders, my arms, the stiffness of my smile, and the possibility that I might have a hidden propensity for jazz hands.
I swallow and make fists at my sides–a preemptive measure. Then another pageant official wearing a Miss American Treasure jacket and wielding a clipboard arrives to herd us back into position.
“Back in line, girls, we’re already halfway through the alphabet.” She waves her arms at us as if we’re cattle, and I can’t really fault her, because the clomp of our platform stilettos against the stage floor does sound rather cowlike.
Great, another thing for me to worry about when it’s my turn. Which will be here any second, because time is suddenly moving at warp speed. We fly through the O’s, and when Miss Rhode Island takes the stage and strikes her pose behind Miss Pennsylvania, I’m struck with the realization that there are only three more girls standing between me and my onstage pageant debut.
I close my eyes and try to “find my center,” as Ginny and her yoga-loving friends always say. But I’m so jittery right now that I’m not sure I actually have a center. I am a doughnut.
I’m also a fraud.
I’m nothing but a big, fraudulent doughnut.
And now I’m hungry again. The sudden roar of applause drags me away from thoughts of Krispy Kreme and back to my doughnut-free reality. All the women around me are clapping and cheering. Besides me, Miss Tennessee is waving her hands frantically in front of her face to ward off tears.
Intrigued by all the hoopla, I crane my neck for a better glimpse of the runway. What could possibly be going on out there? I’m almost expecting to see a beauty queen equivalent of Gisele Bündchen gliding up and down the catwalk, but I don’t. What I actually see is even better.
Miss South Carolina is in the center of the runway, smiling down at the judges. Like nearly all of the other contestants, she’s wearing a bikini, which means her abdomen is on display for everyone to see. To my complete and utter surprise, there’s a large scar running down the center of her torso. It starts at her sternum and runs almost all the way down her belly button.
I can’t believe I didn’t notice it when she was standing backstage, awaiting her turn with the rest of us. But it’s pretty dark back here, and until the competition began, I was too consumed with checking out my own body in the mirror to notice anyone but the girls standing on either side of me.
Right now, though, I can’t tear my eyes off of Miss South Carolina. Her smile is electric. Every step she takes radiates poise and grace. Watching her gives me goose bumps. It’s that powerful.
“I hear she had open-heart surgery less than a year ago,” Miss Utah whispers. “She’s got some kind of rare cardiac disorder. As Miss South Carolina, she visits a lot of hospitals.”
Now I’m the one on the verge of tears. I blink furiously. She could have easily chosen a one-piece swimsuit, but she didn’t. She’s out there owning her scar.
Watching her prance and twirl isn’t just inspiring. It’s empowering, just like Ginny said. I’m brimming with admiration.
Oh no, I’ve sipped the Kool-Aid.
I sigh inwardly. Of course I haven’t. I’m just a placeholder. I’m not even competing in this thing. Not for real.
But when it’s my turn to walk onstage, it certainly feels real. The dazzling set is real and so is the surge of adrenaline that hits my veins when the announcer calls my name and the warmth of the spotlight turns toward me.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.
I’m doing it. I’m walking the runway, and it’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Every time a worrisome thought about my appearance enters my head, I think about South Carolina. If she can do this, I can too.
Music is playing over the loudspeakers. It’s a song by someone named Zayn or Justine or Harry that I’ve heard the tween girls go crazy for at the karaoke booth at my school’s fall festival. The beat’s familiarity gives me a little boost and, miraculously, I realize I’m moving with what I thing is known as swagger.
My head spins. I’m actually–dare I say it–enjoying myself. Almost. I’m still playing a part, only this time I’m the one cast as Miss Texas. Not my twin. Not Ginny.
I reach the middle of the runway, and I pause to stand with my hands on my hips and my head tilted just so, exactly like Ginny taught me to do. One by one, I look each judge in the eye. They’re seated in the same order as they were yesterday during the interviews, and each one of them smiles back at me.
Until I get to the end.
His gaze is impassive. Stoic. And it never wavers from my face, as if he’s dead set on ignoring the fact that I’m standing there in a bathing suit that could probably pass for a push-up bra and panties.
Look at me, damn it.
I do a little spin, then arch a brow. It’s a challenge, and we both know it. I’m daring him to look. It’s his job, after all. He’s here to judge me in all my bikini’d glory. He can’t just ignore me and refuse to venture a glance below my neck.
But that’s obviously his intention.
He’s getting me back for calling him creepy. Fine. Two can play at that game. If he wants to ignore me, I’ll ignore him right back.
I keep moving–past the judges’ table and all the way to the end of the runway, where I do the pose, turn, pose combination that Ginny made me practice for half an hour. I’m not completely sure I get it right, but close enough. I’m not sprinting offstage, and there’s not a a jazz hand in sight.
On my way back toward the stage, I pass the judge’s table again and flash judges one through five each another grin. When my handsome book-quoting nemesis comes into view, I pretend he’s wearing Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. I look right through him.
When I’m back at the top of the stage and my ninety seconds is nearly up, I give one last hair toss and cast a demure glance over my shoulder. Then, and only then, do I catch my Slytherin friend watching me.
I do something I now I shouldn’t.
I wink at him.
He drops his gaze immediately, focusing on my binder spread open in front of him. Once again, he’s all business as he jots something down in his judge’s book, but I’m almost certain I spy a tiny hitch in the corner of his lips. Then barest hint of a smile.
Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.